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I love it to pieces - 92%

Metal_Detector, June 22nd, 2012

You know, I think I've been fairly grounded in my criticism of Lizzy Borden to this point. That could have to do with the fact that neither their debut demo nor Give 'em the Axe were exquisite examples of this band's potential, or that I was consciously avoiding doing so to maintain some amount of credibility for when the rave inevitably began, but that all ends here. Yes, I'm a pretty serious fanboy of the band in question, and yes, with Love You to Pieces, all bets are off. My indifference effectively died roughly three seconds into "Council For the Cauldron" with the intricate and wickedly beautiful guitar melody that erupts into a speed metal riot of the highest order. That would be the first of many, I would come to learn, as this is only the first in a series of anomalously good albums; and while I may prefer the spotless Visual Lies, it's hard to fault their full length debut for not being so absolutely perfect.

First and foremost, we must address the travesty that is the cover. Let me give you some personal background. I didn't live a second in the eighties, so the whole glam image has never seemed as repugnant to me as it might have to those who had to suffer seeing "I'll See the Light Tonight" juxtaposed to "Every Rose Has its Thorn" on MTV. I never cared for most of the music the scene produced (and I absolutely abhor much of it), but the actual image has always kind of appealed to me in a retro sense. It's almost like fascinating history that raises curiosity and interest because I didn't get the chance to experience it myself when I would have very much liked to. However, even with that said, what in the unholy hell is this mess? It's like wrapping a bar of gold in a used tampon. The only thing missing is the sticker demanding, "HEY! YOU! DON'T BUY THIS!" Imagine Ample Destruction or A Skeptic's Apocalypse with this artwork. What could possibly be the benefit of scaring the target audience of the music with an image that probably emasculated metal fans everywhere and stole the functioning of their ever-scarred eyeballs?

That was basically Lizzy Borden personified, though. With their ridiculously flamboyant image and terrible album art, as well as their confrontational attitude when looking at society, they were basically begging not to be liked. Luckily, if this was their mission, they failed miserably thanks to the fact that the actual music is utterly astounding. Granted, they're still quite an acquired taste. Lizzy himself was probably the biggest love/hate factor the band had, for his helium-addled shrieks and wails put quite a pain in the eardrums of many an unwilling listener. I for one love his vocals to death. His purity of voice (which has persevered to this day) and instantly distinguishable accent never fail to thrill me, as do his high pitched cries and outstanding phrasing. You never forget a Lizzy Borden vocal line. It just doesn't happen, and the lyrics, though somewhat typical and reflective of the time, are made outstanding due to their flair for simplicity and their eternally memorable nature. Themes of rebellion, love, anarchy, and power reign supreme in this vibrant musical setting, one marked by timeless melodies of both the vocal cord and the axe.

Many unsuspecting glam fans lured in by the AIDS-ridden pictorial hook were probably taken aback by the sheer amount of instrumental talent involved here. The group still had its most dynamic duo of guitarists at this point, with both Tony Matuzak and Gene Allen at the helm. In flurries of rollicking NWOBHM riffing, blue collar US power influences, and quick spouts into early speed metal (see "Godiva") these guys pave a complex web of guitar-work that remains accessible and even slightly radio-friendly. The latter factor would become prominent as the band consciously moved into more commercial territories and acquired a crystal-clear production, but that can be traced back to tunes like the excellent "Save Me," whose simple hooks, melodic leads, and swinging chorus instantly engrave themselves into the memory. Look elsewhere to find unforgettable pieces like the galloping "Warfare" and "American Metal." I would deem the latter as one of the best metal anthems ever composed, soaring high and marching triumphantly under the star-spangled banner. Usually I find any song involving the US to be a pandering and ill-advised propaganda campaign, but the passionate delivery, gang-shouted chorus, and piercing vocal summoning all create a spine-chilling serenade to the music we love.

Overall there are just too many highlights to name, like the inspiring balladry of the title track, which never goes stale. I really like the production here, which plays rough for the style but remains clear enough to discern each element in the mix. This was band with a vision to share and to cherish, and a sound strong enough to permeate all the hairspray and makeup and leave a permanent impression in the mind. The sudden leap from their somewhat plain traditional metal beginnings to a true force to be reckoned with can seem quite dumbfounding, but the music here proves to be just as sharp as the blades on the band's legendary logo. Listening to this, it's hard to believe Lizzy Borden would only hone their songcraft further and serve up an even better platter of melodic perfection just two years later. The rest, my friends, is history.

Written For:

Rated Huzzah for: sounds much better than it looks - 88%

autothrall, May 29th, 2012

The cover of Love You to Pieces serves as a poster child for the point I was trying to make in the Give 'Em the Axe review, that Lizzy Borden was a gifted band musically that was privy to some poor visual decisions that rendered them a laughingstock to many unwilling to get past them. Is this supposed to be hot? Was she hot in 1985? Was he? I don't recall having any hormonal predilection towards the big-hairs during those impressionable middle or high school years, but beyond that there's the fact this image does absolutely no justice to the music or lyrical content of this album, especially when I could angle my head a few degrees and take in the mysteries of Powerslave, Defenders of the Faith or Ride the Lightning. Granted, not all the lyrics are necessarily great, and yes, there's one tune which is particularly sexual in nature ("Flesheater"), but that doesn't alter the fact that Lizzy Borden just failed as a 'glam' band.

On the other hand, as a METAL band, Love You to Pieces elevated the quintet into one of the best West Coast outfits of its type. Thrash might have been in session by this time, with groups like Metallica, Exodus, Possessed and Slayer taking off, but Lizzy had fully capitalized on the Give 'Em the Axe material with richer, vibrant production values and stronger songwriting, mindful of keeping an 'edge' of aggression here which could cleanly delineate them from the sissy leather 'n lace hard rock acts they paralleled in appearance. This might not be the pinnacle of intricacy for their craft, but a damn fine full-length debut which manages to distinguish itself on nearly every track, while further expanding the ideas and atmosphere manifest in the first two years of their existence. For a band so known by its front man's presentation and piercing timbre, the music is remarkably well structured and delivered, dramatic and explosive enough to place them in the ranks of other hopefuls like Savage Grace, Omen and Liege Lord.

You've got thundering speed metal like "Council for the Caldron" in which the hammering of the drums and the glass ceiling of Borden's vocal patterns create an eloquent and unexpected contrast through which the raving guitar licks and glorious shredding burst like a dragster running laps and burning tires. The emotional and livid desperation of "Warfare" with its flowing melodic chords and unforgettable chorus. If Iron Maiden or the 'Ryche had released that song, it might have generated a hit single, but Lizzy was just too far down on the totem pole. "American Metal" is another barnstormer, a cheesy and effective mid paced anthem slung with microscopic speed licks, eminent percussion and excellent notation building to its sing-a-long climax, and some of the wildest screams the front man had yet pulled off. As laugh out loud as the lyrics might seem, I also really enjoy the music for "Flesheater", while "Godiva" returns to that rapid fire pacing of the opener.

Borden is almost outclassed by his guitarists Gene Allen and Tony Matuzak here, both returning from the EP (alongside the rhythm section). There is constantly some frenetic, playful pattern erupting somewhere above or below the primary chords, or they'll just let the strings resonate atmospherically. This expresses a level of ambition rarely scene out of the borderline glam/metal crowd, and it gives Love You to Pieces this almost incessant replay value which, 27 years later stills seems to hold up. The bass is great, well separated from the six-stringers and Harges' drumming is loaded with fills and muscle that place him well beyond your standard Strip basher. The only caveat to the album is that there are one or two tunes, like "Save Me" or the evolving, titular power ballad which don't seem nearly as catchy as their neighbors.

There were better records in its class for 1985, like Fates Warning's masterpiece The Specter Within or Helloween's vicious melodic speed metal relic Walls of Jericho, but outside of the cover art, there's a true sense of timelessness here which continues to thrill and entertain well beyond the predicted expiration date. I wouldn't say I prefer it to Lizzy's flawless 1987 effort Visual Lies or the ensuing rock opera Master of Disguise, but it's got long legs to stand on and I return to this far more often than the sophomore.


The Perfect Heavy Metal Album - 100%

abu_thaura, April 30th, 2007

In the 80s, the non-mainstream metal scene was mostly occupied by Thrash and Death bands, Lizzy Borden stood out for sounding much rougher than the common Heavy band while still being very melodic and for having the looks - though not the sound - of glam metal. 20 years later, it seems, the band has all but completely disappeared from the conciousness of metalheads in America (at least that's my impression, I may be wrong), and they never did seem to get much of a following outside the US. One can say, then, that Lizzy Borden, or at least Love You to Pieces, is one of the most painfully underrated metal bands in history, right up there with Overkill and (hair metal band) White Lion.

It is impossible to find anything wrong with this album. There's a variety of lyrical themes, from the band's signature psychopathic lyrics (Psychopath, Love You to Pieces) to Heavy's standard 'evil' theme (Council for the Cauldron, Flesheater), all the way to the mandatory 80s metal pride song (American Metal). All the lyrics, while not being sophisticated in the poetic sense, all fit perfectly into the mood of each and every song. Singer Lizzy Borden can do it all, from the mania of Psychopath to the remarkable falsetto of Red Rum. The production isn't completely smooth, but everything comes out perfectly.

Let me emphasize this again and again: this is one of the best metal albums I have ever heard and certainly the best Heavy album I have ever heard. And if you tell me that you can listen to Red Rum without thinking that this is one of the best things you've ever heard, I just wouldn't know what to tell you. If you're a heavy metal fan, get this album.

Classic 80's Power metal - 95%

SlayedNecros, April 26th, 2006

This album is indicative of what power metal was in the 80's; fast guitars, high pitched vocals, and memorable catchy songs. Slightly heavier fare then the traditional metal of the time period. Lizzy Borden was a theatrical band on stage and a blazing band on album.
I believe this to be their best album. it's consistent from top to bottom. 'Council for the cauldron' gets the album kicking with a fast track. It really sets the mood for the album. Up next are three of the most memorable tracks on the album-'Psychopath', 'Save me' and 'Red rum'. the tempos vary but each of those tunes have cool riffs and catchy hooks. For those not familiar with Lizzy Borden at all, the vocals are high pitched (but not in a King Diamond sort of way), they are not falsetto, more like Lizzy is just more comfortable in that range. 'Love you to pieces' is a cool ballad type of track. After that brief reprieve comes three more classic corkers in the form of; 'American metal', 'Flesh-eater' (possibly the best song ever about oral sex) and 'Warfare'. 'Godiva' is next and it's blazing quick tune which is not one of the finest moments on the album, however, then comes the equally blazing 'Rod of Iron' which closes the album in glorious fashion.
This album would be a fine addition to any metal-heads collection, especially those of you looking for all things 80's. Lizzy Borden was far from a household name back then, so this album can be considered the upper tier of the underground (this pre-dates any of the videos you may have seen from them on VH1-Classic). For some reason I have always seen this album as the doppelganger to Savage Grace's classic-"After the fall from grace". In short, fast, catchy and necessary metal.

American Fucking Metal. When it meant something. - 95%

Danthrax_Nasty, October 22nd, 2003

This is one solid fucking release,... solid like an unopen beer bottle making contact with a human skull at extreme volocity. Every song is pure catchy, thrashy, Heavy Metal awesomeness done in a totally 80's, only in America, kinda fashion.

A draw back for some may be the "Glam" aspect of the groups image,... but for fucks sake there from LA, and this was released in 1985, so if you can't get over big hair, and glitz by now than bite me. Some may also dislike the over the top theatrics of this band, which in parts becomes quite cheesey, but thats what it is, so you either dig it, or you don't.

One major reason this is as great as it is lies entirely in Lizzy's voice, as its very unique, packing his ultra high falcettos, and manly vibratos with a sound unemulated before, or since. Flat out, a very talented individual. The next reason this rules harder then a Turkish Warden is in the riffs,... because nearly every song is loaded with great Metal riffs, leads, and solos. Also, the distortion of the guitars, as well as their tone, and overall production allow the instruments to set the mood of each song vibrantly, and adds a certain allure, and feel of being geniune. With said, the last reason this albums greatness may never be contested (besides my decree!) is the lyrics. They are written to each song with real crafting skill. Each riff is layed out perfectly with the vocal patterns, and thanks to Lizzy's voice carried out with a true Metal spirit. These lyrics really help bring the songs out, and put a total 80's youthfull feel into the music's message.

In a nut shell: with this release the band made their place on the LA scene, and put out an album which would extend their fanbase, raise their credibility, and is full of their classic material. Just a highly influential record, highly accessible, highly worthy. Easily the bands best studio output.

Personal picks:
Save Me, American Metal, Love You To Pieces, Flesheater, Rod Of Iron